Hundreds of Protests in 36 Countries Demand Release of Arctic 30
Today, as the Arctic 30 face their 30th day of imprisonment in Russia, nearly 10,000 people are taking to the streets at more than 100 events in 36 countries to call for their immediate release, according to a Greenpeace press release.
Last night, the grounds of the Greenpeace office in Murmansk, Russia, were broken into. CCTV footage, released today by Greenpeace International, shows six men in balaclavas scaling a fence and entering the grounds. A mock cage—which was to be used to highlight the injustice of the Arctic 30's imprisonment during a solidarity protest in the city—was stolen.
As global solidarity activities kicked off, bail hearings began for four more activists: Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands, Anne Mie Roer Jensen of Denmark, Alexandre Paul of Canada and Alexandra Harris of the UK. Bail requests for both Paul and Harris were denied; the other cases are ongoing.
"Alex is a caring, sensitive person, who cares for the environmental future of the planet," Harris’ mother said today. "She was on board the Arctic Sunrise as part of a peaceful protest, in international waters, in the radio room doing her job and we hope and pray that the Russian authorities will let our daughter come home to us soon."
In September, 28 activists, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer, were charged with piracy by the Russian authorities following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea. Gazprom plans to start production in the first quarter of 2014, in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law. If convicted of the charges of piracy, the offense carries a maximum 15 year jail term. The Arctic 30 could be detained until Nov. 24 while authorities investigate the allegations against them.
This morning, according to Greenpeace, the non-executive Chairman of Shell told media in Finland that the Finnish activist imprisoned in Russia, Sini Saarela, should be released. This is significant because Shell has a close business relationship with Gazprom in the Russian Arctic, “This message should be coming from Shell’s CEO Peter Voser," said Jim Footner of Greenpeace. "He should break his company’s ties with Gazprom and do everything he can to ensure the Arctic 30 are freed."
Global protests today include:
- A protest at the base of Mount Everest with activists from Greenpeace East Asia.
- In Mexico City, protesters are visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s monument and will build a prison cell around it.
- In the Netherlands, people are erecting a giant cage in the centre of Groningen, the hometown of one imprisoned activist and the sister city of Murmansk, Russia.
- In Bangkok, people are gathering in Wat Phra Kaeo, one of the most iconic temples of Thailand, where volunteers shaped the words Free the Arctic 30 using flower bouquets.
- In Bangalore, people are gathering in Freedom Park, where a prison once stood.
- In Germany, a 30-hour vigil is taking place with more than 100 people, on top of the ongoing solidarity vigil in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin that started on Sept. 19.
- A 24-hour sit-in vigil is happening in the central square of Naples, Italy, the home city of one of the Arctic 30 detainees.
Yesterday, eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates have written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin offering their support to the Arctic 30. They write in their letter:
Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous, high-risk enterprise. An oil spill under these icy waters would have a catastrophic impact on one of the most pristine, unique and beautiful landscapes on Earth. The impact of a spill on communities living in the Arctic, and on already vulnerable animal species, would be devastating and long lasting. The risks of such an accident are ever present, and the oil industry’s response plans remain wholly inadequate. Equally important is the contribution of Arctic oil drilling to climate change. Climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are paying the price for developed countries’ failure to act.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureates who sent the letter are:
- South African Bishop Desmond Tutu
- Northern Irish peace campaigner Betty Williams
- Former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez
- U.S. peace campaigner Jody Williams
- Liberian peace campaigner Leymah Gbowee
- Yemeni peace campaigner Tawakkol Karman
- Guatemalan social reformist Rigoberta Menchu Tum
- Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire
- Iranian lawyer and former judge Shirin Ebadi
- Former President of East Timor Jose Ramos Horta
- Argentine community organizer Adolpho Perez Esquivel
In a letter to a journalist, published today in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, Oulahsen writes of being held “in a dirty cell, alone, isolated from the rest,” only able to “catch a glimpse of other Russian prisoners in the corridor.”
“Once in a while a rat crawls across the floor," she said. "I’ve lost weight and am not sleeping too well, but I am still holding my head high.”
She complains of having been denied the right to call home and not receiving most of the books and letters people are sending her. “I crave letters from my family, friends and colleagues,” Oulahsen continued. She also says the highlight of her day is the exercise hour, when she “walks around in a dark concrete space of about five by five meters, where you’re lucky if you can see the sky through the cracks in the rotten and leaky roof.”
“It is now 30 days since our ship was seized and our 30 friends and colleagues were detained," Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said. "They now face a charge of piracy—an absurd charge that carries a maximum 15 year jail sentence."
“The Arctic 30 were standing up for all of us, defending a fragile environment and a climate in crisis and now we must stand with them. Their detention is an attack against every single person who has ever been willing to raise their voice to demand a better future for themselves and their children. Now these 30 people are prisoners of conscience and we are all responsible for their fate."
“Greenpeace does not think it is above the law, but those 30 brave men and women are not pirates and this charge is a clear attempt to deter peaceful protest," Naidoo continued. "We are here today to show our solidarity with the Arctic 30 and defend the right to peaceful protest. We call for their immediate release.”
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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